Any movie worth its salt is one that leaves a lasting impact on its audience. True, there are a fair share of excellent films out there, but very few are moving enough provoke an actual outward emotional response. Peep the following selection, in random order, of 10 of these emotional powerhouses worthy of keeping your Kleenex on stand-by:
1) Glory (1989): Denzel Washington & Morgan Freeman star in this epic about the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry – the first Black regiment to fight for the North in the Civil War. The entire film is haunting, but Denzel stole the show during the scene where his character gets bullwhipped after being falsely charged of deserting his unit. This tragic tale of heroism will leave your heart in knots – to say the least.
2) Hotel Rwanda (2004): Starring Don Cheadle as hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, and Sophie Okonedo as his wife Tatiana, Hotel Rwanda tells the true, heart-wrenching story of the extreme brutality, and apathy, surrounding the genocide that claimed over a million lives of the nation’s Tutsi people. Cheadle’s phenomenal performance depicting Paul Rusesabagina succumbing to his emotions during a moment of solitude is nothing short of dramatic genius. A pure Kleenex moment from a powerful, harrowing film.
3) Ghost (1990): After being shot to death, Sam’s (Patrick Swayze) spirit remains earthbound to protect and comfort his wife (played by Demi Moore) by way of ‘sassy’ medium Oda Mae (Whoopi Goldberg). Things get pretty misty at the end when Sam makes his final departure from the land of the living.
4) Brian’s Song (1971): This classic, 5-time Emmy Award winner stars Billy Dee Williams and James Caan as professional football players Gale Sayers and Brian Picolo, respectively. Black Classic Movies describes it best: “Both star players for the Chicago Bears, Sayers and Piccolo soon become roommates and best friends. When Sayers suffers a knee injury in mid-season, it is Piccolo who prods and inspires him to work toward a complete recovery. Then fate deals a cruel blow: Piccolo is stricken with malignant cancer. The constant support and friendship of Sayers plays an important role in Piccolo’s heroic fight against the disease. ”
5) Beaches (1988) follows the tumultuous lifelong friendship between a rich debutante (Barbara Hershey) and a crass, spirited, struggling entertainer (Bette Midler). As the story unfolds not even their distinctly varied lifestyles, or love for the same man, is powerful enough to break the bond between the two. Emotions swell when Hershey’s character, Hillary, becomes gravely ill, making for a classic, tear jerking theatrical experience.
6) Imitation of Life (1934 & 1959) is based on the 1933 best-selling novel by Fannie Hurst, which BCM explains was controversial because it used the characters and storyline to address the racial, sexual and class prejudices of the era. The 1934 movie version of Imitation of Life was a huge success, prompting a remake 25 years later. Both films explore the notion of identity within the irrational, dreadful climate of racism in America.
7) The Elephant Man (1980) makes the list because the only thing more moving about John Hurt’s portrayal of Joseph Merrick (re-named John in the film) is the fact that his condition was painfully real. Merrick was a 19th century Englishman born with a congenital condition that left him hideously disfigured. This film, based on Merrick’s struggle to survive in a harsh, unforgiving world is devastatingly poignant.
8) The Color Purple (1985) was based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the same name. With an ensemble cast starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, the film illustrates the resilience of the human spirit. Taking place in early 20th century rural South, The Color Purple revolves around Celie (Goldberg), an insecure, uneducated and abused woman who manages to transform and transcend her surroundings, while inspiring those around her to do the same.
9) Set It Off (1996): Starring Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica Fox & Kimberly Elise is an intriguing action tale with a heart-racing – and heartrending – outcome. Set if Off follows the journey of four down & out friends who decide to improve their bleak financial status by robbing banks. While meeting with success initially, things spin out of control resulting in a dire state of affairs for the crew. Queen Latifah’s final scene may draw a tear, or the pre-cry quivers, at the very least.
10) Amistad (1997): Djimon Hounsou, Morgan Freeman and Matthew McConhaughey star in this feature is based on actual events. As BCM aptly describes, Amistad “chronicles the incredible journey of a group of enslaved Africans who overtake their captor’s ship and attempt to return to their beloved homeland.” Its winter release caused an overshadowing by another stirring film, Titanic. Naturally, any movie involving the inhumane practices of slavery in the US are tear provoking, but in this case these four words are sufficient: “Give us us free!”
10 films only represent a tip of the emotional ice-berg, so to speak. We want to know the flicks that have managed to pull on your heart-strings over the years.